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New Book Reviews

Spymaster: Dai Li and the Chinese Secret Service
By Frederic Wakeman, Jr.
Reviewed by Bob Bergin

Covert Action in the Cold War: US Policy, Intelligence and CIA Operations
By James Callanan

~ updated review ~

World War II: Saving the Reality (A Collector's Vault)
By Kenneth Rendell
Reviewed by Dan Pinck

Go To Book Reviews

New Book Reviews

The Hornet's Sting: The Untold Story of Britain's Second World War Spy Thomas Sneum
By Mark Ryan

James Jesus Angleton, The CIA, & The Craft Of Counterintelligence
By Michael Holzman
Reviewed by Dan Pinck

Ian Fleming's Secret War
By Craig Cabell

Go To Book Reviews

The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America

By Hugh Wilford
Harvard University Press, 342 pages
Reviewed by Dan Pinck

Mr. Wilford’s book is a surgical incision into the intelligence life of Frank Gardner Wisner, a preeminent cold warrior who served in the operational cockpit of our international attempts to rollback the spread of communism. That we achieved our goal is due in part to many of the schemes and strategies developed and set in motion by Mr. Wisner and his colleagues at the CIA. He took risks and made mistakes that come with the territory. If we intend to praise him, we should praise ourselves. If we care to heap calumny on him for his mistakes, we should blame ourselves. If a person is involved in operations and doesn’t take risks and doesn’t make mistakes, that person is not doing his or her job. (Inevitably, some mistakes are inexcusable.)

As there are no easy answers, there are no easy questions. In framing my review or observations, I would like to ask Frank Wisner what he thinks of this book. My feeling is that he would give it a High Pass; in fact, he would commend it for limning the major points in his career and especially the influence of his mentor, George F. Kennan, the principal architect of our earliest Cold War strategies and tactics. And I’d like to contemplate whether Mr. Wisner, had he lived a life almost as long as Mr. Kennan, who died in 2005 at age 101 and who retained his mental sharpness and severe skepticism until the end and repudiated some of his earliest assumptions, -- whether Mr. Wisner would have changed his bedrock outlook on containing communism. I’d like to think he would have changed some of the tunes that he played on his Mighty Wurlitzer. Mr. Wisner called his covert operation a Mighty Wurlitzer on which he could play any propaganda or operational tune.


In The Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender And The Battle for Postwar Asia

By Ronald H. Spector
Random House, 2007
Reviewed by Dan Pinck

This book is difficult for me to assess and I don’t mind saying this. Mr. Spector is a historian with a commendable reputation. He has written six or seven books that skillfully illuminate past wars, including World War II and Vietnam. Given the wide-angle scope and boldness of the thesis in his new book, I’m puzzled by its execution and the style or manner in which picks at some important facts. In some respects, his history is excitingly sound and in other respects, it’s somewhat scattered. I add that it’s possible that his book demolishes some of my thoughts about war and peace in Asia, and it dumps some of assumptions in a waste paper basket. But never mind. This goes with the territory of anyone who tries to capture China during the Second World War, as well as before and after it. When you add French Indochina, Great Britain, and the Netherlands to the mix, and Japan after their surrender, you’ve got an imposing swath of history. How to pick and choose? In this review, I propose to suggest what the context is, not to cover the entire, postwar geopolitical and military history of Asia. That’s a complex task for me. I expect I will concentrate on mainland China, with a few excursions to other nations. Along the way, I will undoubtedly reveal some of my eccentricities and biases.


Endgame, 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of World War II

The time-frame of Mr. Stafford’s history is roughly three months centered on the formal end of the war in Europe. He notes that the war continued after Germany’s surrender. Some notable events at that time, as well as events before the war are viewed through the eyes of individuals who lived through them as prisoners, reporters, soldiers, intelligence agents and relief workers in Germany, Poland, Russia, Italy and France and in other nations. The individuals he mentions are presented with a pointillist touch that captures a vivid, I-was-there, personal element in his history. They include Fey von Hassell, the daughter of a conspirator of the failed attempt to kill Hitler. She spent the war in many concentration camps. Robert Ellis, a member of the Tenth Mountain Division who fought as an infantryman in the Appennines; Bryan Samain, who fought as a commando from Normandy to the Baltic Sea and who served also as an intelligence operative; Geoffrey Cox, a frontline, British intelligence officer in Italy; Leonard Linton, who was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division; Geoffrey Cox, who fought with the New Zealand Second Division in Italy; Robert Reid, a BBC war correspondent who provided some of the most informative and depressing public accounts of Nazi behavior; Francesca Wilson, an Englishwoman who was a relief worker at a displaced persons camp in Bavaria and who visited several concentration camps at the end of the war; and others.

As an UNNRA representative, Ms Wilson went to Fohrenwald, built originally as a model Nazi workers village in Bavaria, where her job was to supervise the schools for eight hundred children whose languages included Estonian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Serb, Polish and German. She found one school, headed by an Estonian, “a woman with a genius for handling small children.” The schools included Holocaust survivors. She traveled to Munich to find books for her school. She opened a mathematics textbook, and she read: “Germany has 100,000 epileptics and 250,000 mental defectives. It costs 2 .50 marks a day to keep each one of them. How many babies could go to nursery school at a cost of 1 mark daily for the same sum?” Nazification infected everything in Germany. Ms Wilson had to search widely for appropriate books for children.

Fey von Hassell was a political prisoner, a Sippenhafte, whose fate was to be shuffled with thousands of other political prisoners from concentration camp to concentration camp. The evacuations became death marches. The Third Reich used a variety of ways to kill upwards of a quarter of a million of these people; they burned some in barns; they machine-gunned others; they shot them when they stopped to tie their shoelaces – if they weren’t barefoot; they starved them; many froze to death; guards shot the exhausted. The Gestapo made no distinction between German prisoners and those from other nations.

These savage marches happened a few days, weeks and months before the end of the war, and after it. Ms. von Hassell’s last camp was Dachau. She and other political prisoners had a grand tour of concentration camps throughout the war. She survived.

Inevitably and properly, Mr. Stafford gives us a guidebook, if you will, to life and death in German concentration camps. Even though most of us will be depressed by increasing our knowledge of some of them, we will be alarmed by the depth of Nazi depravities. Concentration camps were not a wartime invention. Heinrich Himmler, on March 21, 1933, just two months after Hitler came to power, announced that Dachau had been selected as the location of a “detention camp for the enemies of National Socialism. Early on, its first inmates were Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, clergymen, and gypsies. Nazis began stocking Jews there after Kristallnacht in 1938. Once the war started, many other groups, including dissident Polish priests, dissident Wehrmacht officers, and anti-German émigrés captured in Paris, Prague and Amsterdam, were imprisoned. (About fifty thousand Dutch collaborators were given prison sentences after the war and more than one hundred and fifty were condemned to death, and only forty were executed.)

Robert Reid’s BBC reports were far-ranging and incisive. He covered battles and knew many of the Allied military leaders, including General Patton. Reid was smart and fearless. As the war neared its end and Nazis were trying to cover their tails, he concentrated on concentration camps. And David Stafford concentrates on him and his reportage.

I’ll observe that Mr. Reid’s wartime reports – and there are many of them in this book – are far superior to Edward R. Morrow’s. Let Mr. Stafford introduce Mr.Reid: “Victory brought jubilation to thousands, but for other victims of Hitler’s Third Reich, liberation dawned amid death and despair. And Reid was determined that in the flush of victory this story should not be lost. It offered a somber and sobering counterpoint to the otherwise benign scene he had been reporting recently from the lush Bavarian countryside.”

And now Mr. Reid: “There is a trail of death one hundred and twenty-five miles long across Germany – not the death of soldiers killed in combat but the murder of those luckless inmates of the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Flossenburg who were forced by their Nazi jailers to take to the road when the Americans approached both camps.” Roughly twenty-five hundred out of five thousand prisoners from Buchenwald had been killed by the time they arrived at Flossenburg concentration camp near the Czech border. A large number of prisoners had been hanged in front of other prisoners at Flossenburg. By the site of the gallows, there was a decorated Christmas tree. Similar bestialities occurred at most of the other camps. Need I say more?

After I finished reading Endgame, 1945 I made a walkthrough of it with my coach of history, Edward Hallett Carr, to ascertain my high opinion of Mr. Stafford’s book. On all counts, Mr. Carr helps to confirm my respect for this book. “Study the historian before you begin to study the facts.” “History cannot be written unless the historian can achieve some kind of contact with the mind of those about whom he is writing.” “What is history? It is a continuous process between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.” Based on these guideposts of Mr. Carr, I have no doubt that Mr. Stafford has written an outstanding book and that his previous books reinforced his capabilities to write this one. It ranks with historian John Lukacs’s The Last European War: September 1939-December 1941.

Formerly the director of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and an Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Toronto, Stafford is now the project director at the Center for the Study of the Two World Wars at the University of Edinburgh. Among his previous books are Camp X: OSS, “Intrepid,” and the Allies’ North American Training Camp for Secret Agents, 1941-1945; Britain and European Resistance 1940-45; Ten Days to D-Day; and Secret Agent: The True Story of the Special Operations Executive.

A North Africa Story: The Anthropologist as OSS Agent 1941-1943

I don’t mean to be so ignorant and opinionated, which I frequently am, to evade the fact that many historians of war have written, and continue to write, supremely good books. There’s really no doubt of that. However, there’s no sidestepping the assumption that the most rewarding illuminations are in books written by men and women who have risked their lives in operations against their enemies.

Carlton S. Coon, a noted anthropologist who studied under Earnest Hooton, wrote a masterful book about his OSS experiences in North Africa, Corsica and Italy. He and his colleagues, among them Gordon H. Browne, received high decorations for their valor. If there were an OSS Hall of Fame Carlton Coon and Gordon Browne, deserve a niche in it. I quote from Mark Saxton’s from his preface to Mr. Coon’s book:

“By all accounts, not only this one, life in the OSS appears to have had a character all its own. Coon describes it by saying, ‘I never took an oath for the COI or OSS. We were all gentlemen volunteers on our honor. We were never under orders. We were always asked, ‘Would you like to … (e. g. get yourself killed)?’To which we always said ‘Yes.”

That feeling comes clearly through this account. Not remarkable for any secret it discloses, it is noteworthy for the sense of immediacy it conveys, for its picture of people doing extraordinary things in an ordinary manner, and as a rare glimpse into an agent’s mind while he is on the job, or at any rate what he feels he can set down about it.”

He had the best of preparations for his OSS assignments. Unlike the majority of OSS representative, he knew as much as any American about the North African territories the history, the people, and the languages -- in which he was engaged. He was one of General Donovan’s “glorious amateurs” when it came to intelligence and covert operations. No doubt of that. But he was a consummate professional when it came to understand the land and the cultures of natives.

Mr. Coon and Mr. Browne became intelligence agents in Operation Torch, our code name for the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa. They helped to provide intelligence keys before the invasion and conducted dangerous operations after it. For much of the time, their cover was as vice consuls. They helped to sort out and identify fascists and traitors in Vichy’s line-up from those Frenchmen determined to help to fight the Germans and Italians.

If you want to read a historic overview of Operation Torch to complement Mr. Coon’s adventures, I suggest that you also read FDR’s 12 Apostles: The Spies Who Paved the Way for the Invasion of North Africa, by Hal Vaughan.

You may have difficulty finding a copy of Mr. Coon’s book. But you will find a copy in some of the better libraries. This book should be reprinted. It’s a gem.

Glorious Amateurs: A New OSS

Since 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, occasional proposals have been made to re-create the OSS, an ad hoc intelligence organization created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and led by Major General William "Wild Bill" Donovan that holds a special place in the history of intelligence.

Its mission was twofold: first, to provide the President with timely, comprehensive and coordinated intelligence and analysis that he failed to receive from any single government intelligence agency or department, including the military, the State Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Secondly, the President wanted to have an independent group that would engage in clandestine and covert actions on many fronts patterned after Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), which Winston Churchill directed to "set Europe ablaze."

The OSS had an outstanding record in its secret war. It was so successful that four months after end of the war and six months after Roosevelt's death, the generals and admirals, the State and War Departments, and the FBI conspired to persuade President Truman to disband the organization, which he did, on October 1, 1945.

Consequently, the US did not have an effective intelligence agency during the start of the Cold War. Two years later, Truman realized that he needed the peacetime intelligence agency that Donovan had proposed in 1944 and had, in fact, named the Central Intelligence Agency. On September 18, 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act, creating the CIA.  (SOCOM, the US Special Operations Command, also traces its lineage to the OSS.)

Spying is generally an anathema to Americans, especially since some distasteful events have been exposed or revealed during the past sixty years or more. For many reasons, we seemingly have an inbred aversion to clandestine activities. When a secret service's work is not secret, we no longer have a secret service. Or at least a service that has the potentiality of accomplishing much over a period of time. In our time, the CIA is a handy instrument that functions as a centralized punching bag to blame almost every event that appears to go wrong, from geopolitics to warfare. Our national obsession to heap contumely on the CIA emanates from the White House, Congress, the Defense Department, the State Department, the media and the public. The CIA is no longer the prime and first responder to the President. It now reports to the Director of the National Intelligence, an office with some 1,500 staffers. The CIA has a tough time running its own show. How did the OSS succeed?  How would we begin to construct a new OSS today?

The creation of the OSS was itself a small miracle made possible only by the strong support of President Roosevelt and his close personal relationship with General Donovan. Their bipartisan relationship should serve as a role model for today's leaders.  (After witnessing Donovan fire a silenced .22 caliber pistol designed by the OSS, Roosevelt famously quipped that Donovan was the only Republican he would allow in the Oval Office with a gun.  Bipartisanship has its limits.)

The most striking attributes of the OSS were its leadership, the background of its members, and the fact that the organization reported directly to President Roosevelt. In July 1941, before the US entered World War II, Roosevelt accepted Donovan's plan for a new intelligence organization called the Coordinator of Information (COI), which actually was the name of our first peacetime intelligence organization. The COI was a civilian group that reported to the President. After we entered the war, Roosevelt signed a military order on June 13, 1942 establishing the OSS and appointing Donovan as its director. On paper, the OSS was placed under the direction of the Joint Chiefs, but it still had President Roosevelt's ear. A new OSS would need the same independence and presidential support in order to succeed.

Donovan was unconventional, fearless, visionary, imaginative, willing to take the same risks that he asked of others. He took personal responsibility for mistakes. He frequently told OSS personnel that they couldn't succeed without taking chances. He had a facility at selecting and recruiting men and women some of whom reflected his traits. His primary concern was in making OSS an effective force to defeat the enemy. He was renowned for never rejecting any idea of out hand. He built the OSS in his own image, a potent combination of brain, brawn and bravado. In his farewell address, Donovan described the OSS as an "unusual experiment."

OSS veteran Fisher Howe said it best: "If you define leadership as having a vision for an organization and the ability to attract, motivate, and guide others to fulfill that vision, then you have Bill Donovan in spades."

Bureaucracy was anathema to him and most management practices were distended. His hobby was making organizational charts and never following any of them. He often referred to OSS members as "glorious amateurs" and that is precisely what many of them were.  He had a talent for hiring people who were beyond the scope of most military leaders. For example, a young woman from Baltimore, who had served in Europe in a minor diplomatic job before Pearl Harbor, wanted to join the OSS and volunteered for risky work, despite losing a leg in a horse riding accident. She became an OSS agent and was sent to occupied France twice to work with the Resistance. Virginia Hall would become the only civilian woman to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II.

The OSS was a small, nimble organization with slightly more than 13,000 members. More than sixty percent of its personnel were seconded from the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. About 4,000 were women and 900 of them served overseas. Contrary to popular perception, OSS personnel came from extremely diverse backgrounds, including Jews, African Americans and recent immigrants from many European countries. To Donovan, they were all his glorious amateurs. Few, if any, had an intelligence background. Consider this mixture: classicists, historians, policemen, artists, lawyers, newspaper editors and writers, archeologists, scientists, college presidents, labor leaders, counterfeiters, bankers, movie actors and directors, economists, baseball players, football players, farmers, and yachtsmen. 

What do Saul Steinberg, the artist, John Ford, the movie director, Moe Berg, the baseball player who knew twelve languages, Julia Child, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, historian and Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Carlton S. Coon,  the anthropologist, Norman Holmes Pearson, a professor of English, Stewart Alsop, the columnist, Sterling Hayden, an actor, Paul Mellon, a multi-millionaire, Col. Aaron Bank, the founder of the Green Berets, and Ralph Bunche, a foreign affairs specialist who became the Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize, have in common? They were all in the OSS. 

It's a safe bet that no organization in American history assembled such a dazzling array of talent. Donovan believed that smart, talented and motivated people could accomplish things. They still can.

Special mention must be made about academics who served in OSS. At least 300 faculty members from leading universities joined the OSS and made significant contributions to the organization's Research and Analysis (R&A) unit. Donovan attributed some of OSS's greatest contributions to this group.

A wise leader of a newly-created OSS might be able to recruit a similar group of remarkable people today and unleash their creativity, much like Donovan did.

Senator McCain and Mitt Romney believe that the revival of the OSS is our best chance to defeat terrorism.  But where will they find a visionary leader like General Donovan?

During World War II, Donovan said that his greatest enemies were in Washington, not Europe. Could a new OSS sustain its independence from the large number of formidable bureaucracies that sank the original OSS? Let's hope so.

Historical Footnote On Press Leaks

The following bulleted references reveal the ingredients of the evidence:

A grand jury was convened in Chicago in the late spring of 1942 to consider violations of the Espionage Act by the Chicago Tribune. A brief summation of the newspaper’s actions is based on the following: in late May of 1942 our Navy cryptographers decoded a Japanese navy cipher, JN-25-C, used by Admiral Yamamoto who stated that he intended to invade Midway. Admiral Nimitz decided to gamble on the Navy intercepts: he sent three aircraft carriers and other warships northeast of Midway to intercept the Japanese force. On June 4, 1942, our planes sank all four of Japan’s aircraft carriers with all of their planes. This was our first victory in World War II, and it severely decimated Japan’s forces in the Pacific.

Three days later, on June 7, 1942, a page one article titled Navy Had Word Of Jap Plan To Strike At Sea appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in its two sister newspapers, the New York News and the Washington Times-Herald. Joseph Medill Patterson, the publisher and founder of the New York Daily News, and his sister, Eleanor “Cissy” Medill Patterson, publisher of the Washington Times-Herald, were both cousins of McCormick. The article was syndicated by the Tribune to its sister newspapers in which it was titled Naval Chiefs Knew Strength of Enemy. The first paragraph was: “Washington, June 7. – The strength of the Japanese forces with which the American Navy is battling somewhere west of Midway Island in what is believed to be the war’s greatest naval battle, was well-known in American naval circles, reliable sources in the naval intelligence disclosed here tonight.” N. B. The dateline from Washington also appeared in the Tribune. The reason for it was to hide or suppress the real source of the information and to attribute its origin to “reliable sources in naval intelligence.” Basing the origin in Washington was as sneaky as you could get.

The source of this information was an Australian-born, Tribune war correspondent, Stanley Johnston, embedded on the cruiser New Orleans, on its way to Pearl Harbor. He stole the JN-25-C decryption from the captain’s cabin. It contained the Japanese order of battle at Midway. He wrote his report and filed it from Honolulu, without submitting it to a censor. His managing editor, J. Loy Maloney, arranged for the dateline and simultaneous publication in New York and Washington to cover the Chicago Tribune from wrongdoing.

Almost anyone with an alert mind reading this article would deduce that a Japanese code had been broken. The instant reaction created the desire in the White House and the military to try McCormick and his newspaper – and his sister newspapers – for treason. If the Japanese knew that their codes had been compromised, they would obviously change them. On August 7, 1942, Francis Biddle, our Solicitor General, announced that a Grand Jury would be convened in Chicago to investigate Johnston’s article. The Jury met and heard the testimony of the editors of the three newspapers and the reporter, Stanley Johnston, during five days. On the sixth day, the Jury was dismissed, because Navy officers did not show up to testify. Navy officials decided it would be foolhardy to risk further publicity about the broken Japanese code. A bill of indictment meant a public trial, with public testimony in a court of law. The Statute of Limitations expired by the end of the war. Grant Sanger, M. D. wrote in U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings (September 1977): “I agree with the late Judge Thomas D. Thacher, Solicitor General 1930-1933, that if the Navy had seen fit to present evidence to the Chicago Grand Jury in 1942 on the background of how we got Admiral Yamamoto’s plan of operation, those responsible for the article would have been indicted for treason.”

There’s no reason to believe that all U. S. Congressmen kept the secret knowledge secret. One of them didn’t. On the floor of the House, Rep. Elmer J. Holland, of Pennsylvania, lambasting the Tribune, said: “American boys will die because of this article,” adding “somehow our Navy had secured and broken the secret code of the Japanese Navy.” His speech went out on the wire services.

So far as we know, the Japanese never learned that we had broken their code; at least, they never made any great changes to it. Or, if they were informed, they didn’t believe it. It was a Harry Potter miracle that Japanese agents or sympathizers didn’t send this information to Japan.

Don’t assume for a second that this was the only Tribune disclosure of a military secret that was a possible violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. It wasn’t. Another revelation might have harmed the United States in its European war to a deleterious extent. On December 4, 1941 – three days before Pearl Harbor – the Tribune ran a story under this headline: “FDR’s War Plans! Goal is Ten Million Armed Men, Proposed Land Drive By July, 1943.” In the story itself, this sentence appeared: “If our European enemies are to be defeated, it will be necessary for the United States to enter the war.” And: “July 1, 1943 was the date set for America’s presumed entry.” The Army War Plans Division produced what they called the Rainbow Five plan; in it were potential German targets, maps of Germany, and military equipment needed to fight the war in Europe. It was a contingency plan but it contained enough information to give Hitler an opportunity to shape his own strategic plans. Who leaked this to the Chicago Tribune? Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana gave the Five Year plan to Chesly Manly, the newspaper’s Washington correspondent. (In the interest of full disclosure, I note that I attended Sidwell Friends School in Washington and met some of the major players in the government, including Wheeler, and that I rarely ever looked at the Times-Herald but, nontheless, knew that it was, as James Thurber might say, further right than a soup spoon. One of its favorite columnists, Westbrook Pegler, was the only war correspondent, and the youngest, kicked out of Europe by General Pershing in World War I. Francis Biddle, the attorney general, believed that McCormick could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917. No action was taken.

But this isn’t all. The Tribune went for a trifecta of perfidy near the end of the war. This is what happened. Walter Trohan, the newspaper’s Washington correspondent whose string of vile reporting equaled his longevity (he died at age one hundred), wrote an article that appeared simultaneously in the Tribune and the Times-Herald on February 9, 1945. This time, the newspapers aimed to cover their tails by printing the following at the beginning of the report: “The Washington Times-Herald and the Chicago Tribune yesterday secured exclusively a copy of a highly confidential memorandum from Brig.
General William J. Donovan, director of the Office of Strategic Services, which coordinates intelligences information, to President Roosevelt proposing to set up the super-spy agency....Only 15 copies of the memorandum and draft order were made, each plastered with secrecy injunctions.” Never mind that General Donovan was a Major General, Trohan often got large and small things wrong. The Office of Strategic Services was the forerunner of the CIA and it had an honorable record during the war, with upwards of four hundred men and women behind enemy lines in Europe and Asia. Turning on his thought-button, Trohan observed that “neither Mr. Roosevelt nor General Donovan expect the end of the war to usher in an era of perpetual peace.” On August 22, 1945, Trohan shifted into high gear in an article headlined “OSS Survival Plan Attacked As Plot for U. S. Super-Gestapo/ Congress Prepares to Unearth Secrets of Donovan’s Mix of Bankers and Reds.” Trohan reported that OSS stood for “Only Select Slackers” and “Oh, Strickly Soviet.” He lined up a host of Republican Congressmen for quotes, calling the proposed organization a Gestapo or an OGPU. Striving again for a safety net, the Tribune stated at the end of Trohan’s article: “Although these documents and those submitted to the White House by General Donovanwere made available to the Chicago Tribune, they were never officially in possession of this newspaper. They were copied by its representative on paper belonging to the Tribune.” Ouch. A CIA historian tried to identify the source of the leak; he said that the most likely culprit was Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt’s closest aide.

Two of the Tribune’s World War II correspondents based in Germany were so taken with Germany that they remained there during the war. One of them, Donald Day, worked for German radio the last year of the war. He lambasted President Roosevelt and the Allied war against Germany. Apparently, he was a cross between Ezra Pound, who derided everything American in broadcasts from Italy, and Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce), a British turncoat who broadcast, in Engish, from Germany. Day’s dispatches were printed in the Tribune and in its family-related newspapers.

Beyond a doubt, McCormick was a weird and despicable character. A. J. Liebling, one of our best press critics, in a Wayward Press column in The New Yorker (March 25, 1950) reported that McCormick said, in an interview with a Tribune correspondent in Cairo: “France is atheist and anarchic. Her greatest patriot, Petain, is held in prison by his political opposition.” In Bombay, McCormick denounced “President Truman’s civil-rights program as a new form of slavery” and, in Bermuda, on his way home, he reported: “All the police are white. On the other hand, the colored people are contented and extremely well off.” George Seldes, another noted critic of the press, wrote that in Chicago, “a free press meant that the Tribune was free to print without constraint such as truth.” (sic)

We need new words and insights to define what’s happening now. Ideally, I’d like to have a joint series of columns by Liebling and George Orwell. I’ll rest for the present an observation that Liebling made in 1961: “I think that anybody who talks often with people about newspapers nowadays must be impressed by the growing distrust of the information they contain.” Then and now, nothing changes.

Prisoners and/of War

Question: Which nation dressed soldiers as monks to enter a city and kill civilians, including hospital patients?
Question: Which nation conducted human vivisection, biological warfare, and used a crematory?
Question: Which nation killed more than a third of their prisoners of war?
Question: Which nation trained young, school-age girls to carry explosives in school satchels to use in blowing up enemy vehicles and in the process killing themselves?

The answer to all of these questions is Japan, a fact that grows dimmer in our knowledge with each passing year. Japan has never formally accepted its guilt, aside from a few perfunctory apologies. Japan has never admitted its atrocities and it is unlikely that it ever will. On a visit to Great Britain in 1968, Emperor Hirohito allowed his interpreter to say, “The Emperor is sorry.” A Prime Minister of Japan, Tomiichi Murayama, offered many years later his “heartfelt apologies” for his nation’s actions, mainly directed at causing physical damage and destruction to other nations in Asia. In a recent article in The New York Times about a group of goodhearted Japanese who toured a few wartime horror sites in Manchuria, a visitor said, “We Japanese have never been able to say we made a mistake.” Caught in an ethos of savagery during the war, the Japanese considered themselves as victims after the war ended.

I reveal a glimpse about myself and my interest in this subject before I immerse you in a varied though selective portion of Japan’s record of its treatment of prisoners of war. Few weeks go by when I don’t recall my experiences in China during the Second World War. As a sole American representative of the Office of Strategic Services, I served behind the lines in Japanese-occupied territory in Kwangtung Province, up the coast from Hong Kong. I employed about forty Chinese agents who gathered military, naval and political information in Japanese-held coastal towns. I was selected for this activity because I was too young (I was twenty-one) and inexperienced to be overly scared at being surrounded by Japanese forces. In fact, I wasn’t scared until a Chinese agent whom I knew was captured by the Japanese. After a few day’s captivity, he was forced to dig his own grave and he was buried alive in it. Thereafter, I slept with a .45 pistol. I carried two .45s during the day as well as a suicide pencil. I decided that I would probably use my suicide pencil if capture by the Japanese seemed imminent. Japanese soldiers regularly marauded for food in my area, killing Chinese farmers and raping their wives and daughters. My war ended sixty years ago, but my memories of it are still vivid.

Japan began its war against China on September 18, 1931, invading Manchuria with an army of 200,000. They took control of Muken in a four hour battle with Chinese forces. In Mukden and other locations, they took no prisoners. Instead, they killed soldiers and civilians with abandon. This initial action was a preview of how Japan would fight in Asia and the Pacific for the next fourteen years.

Our Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson protested and Japan acceded to a temporary peace accord. The League of Nations began studying the situation. It sent an investigative team to Manchuria headed by Viscount Lytton of Great Britain with members representing the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. The team’s report that called for Japan to leave Manchuria was passed by the League by a vote of 42 to 1. Result: Japan remained in Manchuria, the industrial heartland of China. No nation intervened. The League of Nations exhibited its impotence.

Representatives of Emperor Hirohito signed the International Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, in Geneva, on July 27, 1929. Since the Japanese Parliament did not ratify the Convention, they had no legal obligation to abide by it, not that it would have, in any event. Beginning in Manchuria, the Japanese record in killing prisoners and civilians never abated, without change or remission, for the following thirteen years. Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere began its work without remorse or pity. Murder is murder: an inclusive policy was followed subsequently in Burma, Thailand, Malaya, Indochina, Singapore, Formosa, Hong Kong, New Guinea, Korea, Borneo, Sumatra, the Philippines, the Netherland East Indies, in Japan itself, and throughout the Pacific.

An experimental biological warfare program was initiated by the Japanese in Manchuria in the early 1930s, under the command of an Imperial Army physician, Lieutenant General, Shiro Ishii. At Ping Fan, a village near Harbin, the general and his staff constructed a facility for human experimentation and extinction, complete with laboratories and a crematory with a tall mast of a chimney like those at Auschwitz. The crematory was photographed during the war; at war’s end, it was destroyed by the Japanese. The facility was named Unit 731. In other war areas, outside Manchuria, it was called Unit 100, with operational bases in other areas and nations throughout the war. But Unit 731 was the precursor, and it conducted its work on civilians, soldiers and prisoners in Manchuria. The Unit killed thousands of Chinese and Russian residents in Manchuria, in and around Harbin and Mukden, some of them subject to vivisection. Sheldon H. Harris, an American historian, whose book, Factories od Death: Japanese Secret Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-Up, recounts his twenty years of research into Japanese biological warfare in Manchuria and occupied China. He estimated that 250,000 civilians and 10,000 to 12,000 prisoners of warfare were killed. This number seems excessive; but, since no one else made eleven trips to China doing research on this topic, we’ll let it stand. The American cover-up relates to the fact that we wanted the Unit’s data (200,000 pages) for our own biological warfare experiments. We gained the data. Not a single member of the Unit was charged as a war criminal in the Tokyo trials. Two hundred Unit members were tried and convicted by the Russians in a war crimes trial in Siberia after the war.

More than a recondite footnote, it is pertinent to note that the Russian army killed 70,000, or more, Japanese troops in an incursion that the Japanese made in 1939 into Mongolia. The Russians employed planes and tanks.

Once the Second World War began, on December 7, 1941, Japan opened two major prisoner of war of camps for Americans in Mukden. Many American POWs were killed by staff members of Unit 731. American POWs from as far away as the Philippines were sent to Mukden, including General Wainwright, McArthur’s deputy, whom he had left in the Philippines.

On July 7, 1937, Japan began its invasion of China proper at the Marco Polo Bridge, near Peking. At the time, the Chinese government called this the War of Resistance and again appealed for help in stopping Japanese aggression. Our Secretary of State Cordell Hull delivered A speech on July 14, 1937, advocating international justice and Avoidance of the use of force as an instrument in promoting national Policy. Result: nothing happened. China also appealed to Great Britain for help. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlin, adopted his first appeasement policy, toward Japan. His priority was to maintain British interests in the Far East. Result: nothing happened. Four years later, the Second World War began at Pearl Harbor, and China became our ally in the all-out war against Japan.

Japan operated more than 250 prisoner of war camps throughout Asia and the Pacific. Japan’s treatment of prisoners of war of all nations is beyond imagination. It’s my desire to limit this account to selected incidents, to delineate the context in which many deaths occurred, and not to try to convey the entire, bloody record in detail. Still, the record is gruesome; it can be neither hidden nor minimized.

Emperor Hirohito approved the following order that was written by The Minister of War, the only Cabinet member who had direct access to him. It was sent to all commanders of POW camps and to the chiefs of staff in all areas. It was transmitted to them on August 1, 1944 by the Vice Minister of War. By the summer of 1944, we and are allies were starting to make progress in the war, and the Japanese knew it.

Under the present situation if there were more explosion (sic) or fire

a shelter for the time being could be had in nearby buildings such as

a school, a warehouse, or the like. However, at such a time as the

situation becomes urgent and it is extremely important, the POWs will

be concentrated and confined in their present location and under

heavy guard the preparation for the disposition will be made.

The time and method of this disposition are as follows:

The Time.

although the basic aim is to act under superior orders,

individual disposition may be made in the following


When an uprising of large numbers cannot be

surpressed without the use of firearms.

when escapes from the camp may turn into a

hostile fighting force.

(2) The Methods.

Whether they are destroyed individually or in

groups, or however it is done, with mass bombing,

poisonous smoke, poison, drowning, decapitation, or what,

dispose of them as the situation dictates.

In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape

of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to

leave any traces.

An example of this order occurred in 1944 at a POW camp at Palawan in the Philippines. When an American plane appeared, the commander of the camp, whose American prisoners were building an airfield, rounded them up, put them in air raid shelters, and ordered his troops to pour gasoline over the shelters and ignite them. A few Americans who escaped from the shelters were shot. Nine men survived by jumping into the sea and swimming to a nearby island. One hundred and fifty Americans were burned to death. At a POW camp on Bangka Island, off Sumatra, the Japanese bayonneted twenty-one Australian nurses. This happened in 1942. In 1944, the Japanese killed American airmen at Truk, including the beheading of a U. S. Navy radioman. The radioman was then cooked and eaten. Dr. Chisato Ueno and Lieutenant General Joshio Tachibana and eleven others were and executed at a war crimes trial for the beheading and cannabalism of U. S. Navy airmen. More than 125 Americans were beheaded during the war. An Indian prisoner of war in New Guinea said at a war crimes trial, “At this stage the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the Japanese. I personally saw this happen and about one hundred prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. Those selected were taken to a hut where flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch while they were still alive and where they later died. While flesh was being cut from those selected, terrible cries and shrieks came from them and also from the ditch where they were later thrown.”

Using war crime records, Michael Goodwin wrote a book, Shobun: A Forgotten War Crime in the Pacific, about an American bomber crew whose plane crash landed in Japanese territory. The crew, of which his father was a member, was captured and then beheaded. Shobun means execute. The Sandakan Death March was aptly named. In the first death march, in January 1945, some 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners, mostly British and Australian, were killed. Their Japanese captors expected an invasion. In the second death march, in June and July 1945, six prisoners survived out of a total of almost 2,400.

American prisoners of war totalled 21,580. The number of them killed by the Japanese was 7,107, representing 32.9 percent of those held captive. The total number of Allies, including Americans, in POW camps was 140,000. Roughly 35,000 were killed. Ninety percent of the Burmese andThai prisoners were killed. In the European Theater, 1.3 percent of American prisoners in German camps were killed. The notion that Germany was any less brutal than Japan in its treatment of prisoners is dispelled by the fact that of about 2,800,000 out of a total of 7,800,000 Soviet prisoners died in Germany.

It is difficult to gain an accurate or even an approximate number of the total number of Japanese prisoners of war. General George C. Marshall estimated that there were 41,464 Japanese prisoners. The International Committee of the Red Cross recorded 15,849 prisoners. A Japanese historian, Ikuhiko, claimed there were 50,000 Japanese POWs, including those in China. Another historian, Ikeda Kiyoshi, estimated that there were about 20,000. Slightly more 200, he reported, were killed without provocation; that is, without uprisings in POW camps.

The difference in figures, while not unusually varied, is revealing overall for the small number of Japanese who surrendered. Surrender was not in their vocabulary or their military culture; besides, Japanese troops knew nothing about the Geneva Conventions dealing with prisoners. The Japanese military did scant accounting of Japanese prisoners of war. It seems likely that no more than 20,000 were prisoners. Since the Japanese who surrendered after August 15, 1945, the last day of the war, did not technically count as POWs by the Allies. They are not included in any Allied figures.

The British War Office’s Directorate of Prisoners stated that 6,142 prisoners were held on May 25, 1945. This number increased by the end of the war and when prisoners held by Australia and New Zealand are added to it, the number increased to more than 7,000. As of June 14, 1945, 806 Japanese military and naval prisoners were held at Featherston Camp, near Wellington, New Zealand. Before that date, forty-eight prisoners were killed when an officer led an assault against their captors. This camp had a hospital staffed by physicians; prisoners worked part of each day; and they were paid for their work. Their diet was good and their food was plentiful. They had dental care. The International Committee of the Red Cross provided golf clubs, model airplanes, ping pong tables and 500 dictionaries for Featherston prisoners. After they returned home, the senior Japanese officer wrote to the General Officer Commanding of the New Zealand Military Forces, thanking him for “the just and considerate treatment they had received.”

A Court of Inquiry was convened and decided that the Japanese prisoners were responsible for the deaths. The Japanese Government’s protest was sent to London where the Far Eastern Department of the Foreign Office warned that if Japanese prisoners were killed in Commonwealth camps, then the lives of British and Commonwealth prisoners in Japanese POW camps would be at great risk of retaliatory actions. As the Allies learned, nothing would stop the unending deaths of their forces in Japanese camps. Later, another fifty Japanese prisoners died in another assault at Featherston Camp.

What is known about American treatment of Japanese prisoners is largely anecdotal. Many anecdotes are about end-of-war happenings: at Bougainville, an island off New Guinea, a few Japanese waited to surrender at an airstrip. Two Allied airmen landed in a small planes. They taxied their plane to the Japanese, shot them, and then took off. Another anecdote concerns a postwar killing: a few American, British, Commonwealth, and Thai soldiers killed their Japanese captors. When you consider the atrocities committed by Japanese to Allied prisoners -- and the humiliating indignities, such as measuring penises – it’s remarkable that many Japanese captors were not killed after the Japanese surrender. Torture was common.

The United States had relatively few prisoner of war camps. For the first eight months of the war, we had no victories in the Pacific, only losses. When we
began gaining victories and with them a small number of prisoners, we asked our British and Commonwealth Allies if they would hold the soldiers whom we captured. They generally accepted them, and the majority were transferred to their camps. We did not want to remove any of our ships from the Pacific to transport Japanese to the United States. (I anchor this information behind parenthesis because I choose to: an estimated 2,800 Americans were killed by so-called friendly fire; that is, they were killed unknowingly by American firepower. This is what happened. Our prisoners were shipped to Japan on an estimated twenty-five transports, all them carrying no Red Cross identity – or any other. More than half of them were sunk by our submarines in the South China Sea. The estimates were arrived at from various allied sources. In one instance, a wolfpack of three American submarines attacked a convoy of Japanese ships, sinking a few of them. When they picked up more than 200 American survivors, they found out that the two transports on which the survivors were from, carried a total of 2,200 Allied prisoners. Australian journalist, in an article in Naval History {October 2004), notes that one of the submarines, the Pampanito, is now on view at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Whether these American prisoners are included in the overall account, I don’t know. Somehow, I doubt it.)

With the approval and consent of the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China, President Truman appointed General Douglas MacArthur the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the Pacific, on August 13, 1945. MacArthur issued an order on January 19, 1946, creating the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The Charter delineated the scope, powers and jurisdiction of the Tribunal; and it dealt with the identification, apprehension, trial and punishment since the of major Far Eastern war criminals. The judges were high officials of the United States and our Allied nations, including Great Britain, Australia, Canada, China, Philippine Islands, Soviet Union, Netherlands, France and India.

The Charter stated: “The American member of a military tribunal trying persons accused with violations of the laws of war is not bound by the specific requirements of the United States Constitution and the Articles of War since the Supreme Court has decided that neither constitutional safeguards nor Articles of War apply in such proceedings (ex parte Quirin, 317 U. S. 1; In re Yamashita, February 4, 1946).

Tribunals for A, B and C Class war criminals were conducted between October 1945 and April 1951 in forty-nine locations in the Asia-Pacific region, including Manila, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Ribaul, Singapore and Yokahoma. A total of 5,379 Japanese; 173 Formosans; and 148 Koreans were tried. Of the total number, 984 were sentenced to death; 475 were sentenced to life imprisonment; and 2,944 were sentenced to lesser terms. Of twenty-eight Japanese war leaders indicted as Class A war criminals, twenty-five were found guilty. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal declared one defendant insane, and two others died before their trials. The Australian Government tried, without success, to have the Tribunal try the paramount war criminal, Emperor Hirohito.

At Nuremberg, twenty-four Nazis were indicted and twenty-two were tried for their lives. Three of them did not stand trial; two were physically too ill to stand trial and one committed suicide.

A just and fair accounting must recognize that not all Japanese neither acted with any measure of cruelty toward their enemies nor did they have any feeling but repulsion toward their government’s actions during the war. When I was in China, there were several incidents that I heard about in which Japanese soldiers, sickened by the atrocities of their colleagues, managed to load trucks with armament of various sorts and deliver them to Chinese forces. A moral correction in our thinking is warranted. There were Japanese soldiers, high officials, diplomats and civilians who acted humanely, at great risk to themselves and their families at home in pursuing what they knew to be righteous conduct. Their actions are footnotes to history; but we must be aware of their feelings and responses. To blanket all Japanese with opprobrium is a mistake. I will mention a few exceptions. The people who were repelled by their nation’s atrocities ranged from ordinary ranks to the Royal Family, from women in Japan to diplomats in foreign countries.

Hirohito’s youngest brother, Prince Takahito Mikasa, was sent to China to observe Japan’s military operations. He observed a textbook of torture. He happened to be at Nanking in the winter of 1937, when the Japanese army invaded the city. On the first day, they killed no fewer than 42,000 civilians and soldiers. In a three-month period, the Japanese slaughtered at least 369,366 people, including 150,000 soldiers, and raped 80,000 women. Nanking was China’s capital at the time; the massacre began on December 13, 1937.

An exact set of figures is impossible to pronounce. The Chinese Nationalist Government published a 100-volume history of the war from its new base on Formosa some twenty years after the end of the war. The official history states that 100,000 Chinese were killed during the massacre at Nanking. Japanese accounting for the number of Chinese prisoners of war killed ranges from 14,777 to 30,000. Professor Tian-wei Wu at Southern Illinois University places the total death toll at 340,000. A professor of history at Princeton, Ying-shi Yu, calculated that 354, 870 people were killed, including prisoners of war. For his data, Professor Yu used the statistics of ten burial societies in Nanking, including the Muslim Burial Team and the Advance Benevolence Society. The International Military Tribunal in Tokyo calibrated that 57,400 Chinese prisoners of war were killed by their Japanese captors. I believe the most wisely approximate figures are in a book, The Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable History in Photographs. by Shi Young and James Yin, published in 1997. Its writing, statistics, and photographs reveal hell.

Nanking was preceded in August 1937 by the slaughter of an estimated 300,000 people in Shanghai, in an orgy of rape and murder. Any female from the ages of ten to seventy was raped. Open-air copulation was common. The International Zone became a concentration camp; American, British and other nationals were killed in this presumed safety zone. The American hospital was ransacked. British and American students were taken from missionary schools, installed in Japanese brothels for their troops, and heard from no more. General Sugiyama attributed the success of these two operations to “some force even greater than God inspired our men.” Emperor Hirohito’s uncle, Prince Yasuhiko, was the commander of the Japanese Army’s Shanghai Expeditionary Force. He was responsible for Nanking and Shanghai, and was first based in Nanking. Yasuhiko issued this order to his Force, under his personal seal: “Kill all captives.”

Prince Takahito Mikasa observed the wholesale torture of the Chinese by the Japanese. He was appalled. He told the military leaders of his feelings, with no effect.

He wrote a memorandum about the conduct of the Japanese. When he returned to Tokyo, he handed his document to his brother, Emperor Hirohito. He urged his brother to bring a halt to the atrocities in China. The Emperor did nothing. The fact that a member of the Royal family was repelled by Japanese conduct and was willing to take his objection to the Emperor suggests that a few persons, at least, in the highest reaches of society were opposed to their nation’s savage behaviour. As gorey as this description is about the events at Nanking and Shanghai, it is just to acknowledge that there were Japanese whose revulsion for the rude deaths equalled ours.

A leading Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, invited its readers to submit letters to the editor about their experiences during the war and their feelings about their nation’s activities during it. The newspaper received 4,000 letters and printed 1,100 of them. In his two-volume book, The Japanese Remember the Pacific War, Frank Gibney edited a selection of the letters, performing a valuable service in trying to reduce the runaway biases against the Japanese. His book illuminates the shame and loss that the writers felt during the war, whether it was on the front lines or in the civilian population at home. Most importantly, the book reveals the courage of those who tried to resist the government’s conduct.

Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s vice-consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, distinguished himself as Oskar Schindler did in Germany, by saving up to 4,000 Lithuanian and Polish lives. During August 1940, he issued transit visas to them to travel to Japan. The British, French and American governments did not allow their their vice-consuls in Kaunas to issue transit visas.

All Americans should know that Japanese-American servicemen distinguished themselves during the war. They won more than their share of American decorations for their achievements in combat, including the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. The most most decorated unit in the American army, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, fought in Italy, France and Germany. They fought with Merrill’s Mauraders in Burma. They fought behind Japanese lines in China, with the Office of Strategic Services. They participated in many of the toughest Pacific landings, including Iwo Jima and Saipan. The great majority of captured Nisei were killed. The parents and siblings of our Nisei were held throughout the war in internment camps in the United States.

Beyond a doubt, the Japanese acted with unusual cruelty during the war. But we Americans should not hide behind a seemingly racist gene in our undivided, singular condemnation of the wartime Japanese. The fact is that both Germany and Russia far exceeded the human destruction caused by the Japanese in the Second World War and in other wars wars during the past century.

Earlier, I said the Japanese people were largely trapped in an ethos of savagery during World War II. The Germans, on the other hand, voted for Adolph Hitler in a free election. I suspect that what I’m saying is that if we severely detested Japan during the war, we should just as strongly detest Germany and Russia. Both nations were more violent and perverted in exterminating millions of human beings, including their own people, than Japan. That is an incontrovertible fact.

A day or two after Japan surrendered, I received two Japanese visitors in Hotien, my base near the coast. They were Colonel Tin Boon, the officer in command of about 9,500 soldiers in my area, and a non-commissioned aide. They bowed and saluted me. My interpreter, Shum Hay, said, “The colonel wants to surrender to you. He says he has the utmost respect for you and President Roosevelt.”

I had received a message from my headquarters ordering me not to accept the surrender of any Japanese. I was advised to tell them to surrender to the Chinese Nationalist Army. Since Shum had read the message, he said to me, “We can’t accept their surrender. We can’t feed them. We have no place to keep them. What should we do?”

“Tell Colonel Boon that the Chinese do not allow Americans to accept any surrender under any circumstance,” I said. “Tell him I’m sorry, and please ask him if he’d like to have tea with us.”

Shum spoke to Colonel Boon. “The Colonel says he would like to have tea with you.” We had tea with Boon and his aide. All the while, I was tempted to ask him why he didn’t have his men capture and kill Shum and me. This could have been done with ease at any time during my stay in occupied China. But I didn’t ask him. I’ve been sorry I didn’t ever since.

The Best Spies Didn't Wear Suits

The New York Times

Before America entered World War II, the intelligence being given to President Franklin D. Roosevelt was incomplete and poorly analyzed by several independent agencies. These included the Office of Naval Intelligence; the Army's intelligence agency, called G2; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the intelligence services at the State Department. Much like today's bureaucracies, these agencies did not share information well. But unlike today, there was no centralized intelligence effort focused on foreign threats.

Enter William J. Donovan, known as Wild Bill, who was a World War I Medal of Honor winner, Wall Street lawyer, former United States attorney in Buffalo and 1932 Republican candidate for governor of New York. Although a member of the opposition party, Donovan got along well with Roosevelt, and the men shared an unfashionable belief that America's liberty was threatened by foreign powers.

In the late 30's, Donovan began traveling abroad and informally reporting his findings directly to Roosevelt. Eventually he convinced the president of the need for a centralized spying agency, and in July 1941 Roosevelt created a civilian agency within the White House to oversee American intelligence, naming Donovan to the new post of "coordinator of information."

Eleven months later, and half a year after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt converted Donovan's group into the O.S.S. under a presidential order. In this the two faced great opposition, particularly from J. Edgar Hoover. (Donovan was later quoted as saying that his "greatest enemies were in Washington, not in Europe.")

Donovan reported directly to the president, even once bringing a silent pistol invented by the O.S.S. into the Oval Office and firing it. Roosevelt responded by telling Donovan he was the only Republican who would be allowed in the Oval Office with a gun.

Perhaps Donovan's greatest skill was his ability to recruit talented men and women from other fields, whether they came from the Ivy League, Wall Street or, believe it or not, prison. (After the war, Gen. William Quinn, then running the Strategic Services Unit, an interim organization created after the dissolution of the O.S.S. in 1945, was alerted by Treasury agents to the presence of master forgers in his ranks. Unknown to Quinn, Donovan had arranged for the release of these men from prison during the war to work for the O.S.S.)

Donovan was willing to try any ideas that he thought had potential and, what was more important, he had the power to act on them. He understood and accepted the inherent risks associated with intelligence work - often telling O.S.S. personnel that "you can't succeed without taking chances" - and was as willing to take responsibility for failures as for successes.

The O.S.S. under Donovan was not an insipid bureaucracy of career-minded professionals. It was a freewheeling organization devoted to finding effective ways of winning a war that imperiled the nation's future, a situation we find ourselves in once again. Donovan found formal decision-making and committees anathema to accomplishing his mission. Rather, he operated on good sense, instincts and experience - and gave the members of his staff great latitude to accomplish their missions as they saw fit.

Another unique feature of the organization was that it encompassed nearly all of the concerns that the C.I.A. and other intelligence organizations are engaged in today. For instance, the special operations branch, which would eventually be the model for the military's Special Forces, was then fully integrated into the other intelligence components. Donovan was also one of the first spy chiefs to recognize the importance of covert action and the need for "actionable intelligence" (information gathered and interpreted quickly enough that action can still be taken to change the situation).

When the war ended, President Harry Truman, who knew little about intelligence issues, disbanded the O.S.S. - only to realize his mistake two years later and create the Central Intelligence Agency. The new agency was different in several important ways, however. The O.S.S. had been an ad hoc group, what Donovan called "an unusual experiment" in unconventional means and methods against the enemy. From its very beginning, however, the C.I.A. was designed not as an experiment but as a permanent government institution. Many of its early leaders, excepting Walter Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles, were distinguished not for their intelligence experience but for their knack for political infighting.

As a peacetime organization, it was often compelled to pursue efficiency rather than effectiveness - it tended to play it safe when picking employees and projects. While this wasn't necessarily a fatal flaw during the cold war, a war of diplomacy and proxy armies in which data collection was often more important than covert action, it would be crippling in the hot war against terrorism.

Thus in the future our agencies should consider the somewhat haphazard way the O.S.S. chose people - unconventional warfare requires unconventional people. In addition, granting tremendous new powers to a "terrorism czar" will work only if that person is, like Donovan, truly independent and above the infighting we will certainly see from the Pentagon and other departments. And last, the new leader must have great leadership ability, intelligence experience and imagination.

Fisher Howe, a leading O.S.S. officer, once said that "if you define leadership as having a vision for an organization, and the ability to attract, motivate and guide followers to fulfill that mission, you have Bill Donovan in spades." In that sense, all the bureaucratic and legislative changes in the world won't matter if we don't find the right person for the job.